The (de)evolution of my UI

September 22, 2009 § Leave a comment

It’s been quite a while since I started playing WoW.  In that time the way that I interface with the game has undergone some significant changes.  I started out, as most everyone does, just having the default settings on the game enabled.  Over time I discovered there were a number of options I could change.  The day I found out I could have all my action bars displayed at the same time was almost as exciting as killing Kael’thas for the first time.  And when I figured out I could re-size the chat window?  Man, it was like I had lead the Gnomes to victory in retaking Gnomeregan!

Eventually I learned about the glory of addons.  I had started out very skeptical of addons because my roommate was seriously opposed to them.  But I finally got over my initial doubts and took the plunge.  My very first addon was Auctioneer.  It was totally awesome.  I won’t go in to why now, but it got me hooked.  From there I got Questhelper, and Cartographer, and many more.  It really enhanced my game play, and made my game-time much more productive and enjoyable.

However.

Recently everything has become so darn cluttered that it’s been difficult to keep track of which addon is doing what; not to mention all the Lua errors I’m getting.  And I’m tired of seeing this message in the chat log: “Interface Failed Because of an Addon.”  So I have decided to strip out every addon I have ever installed, delete my WTF, Interface, and Cache folders and start rebuilding my UI/addons from scratch.  Well, sort of.  I’m not going to be programming any of these addons, but you get what I mean.  And if I’m really feeling adventurous I might get rid of, and re-do all my key-bindings.  But that’s a separate topic altogether.

Along the way, I thought it might be interesting to chronicle the process and share what I learn about the addons I try.  Cause we learn when we share right?  Sometimes I may review one addon and delve deeply into all its settings and how you can get the most out of it.  Sometimes I may compare a bunch of addons that I’m trying out and talk about their pros and cons.  And if anyone has comments, advice, critiques, other addons to suggest, better ways of configuring, etc, then by all means share them.  Even if you come across these posts months down the road.

But before I do that, I think I’m gonna do a bit of a pre-post.  You know, talk about addons in general, act like I have some sort of knowledge.  I shall wax philosophic in a verbose and pontificating affectation upon the thesis of the variegated methods of managing and customizing the user interface.  (I’m gonna talk about addons & U/I’s.)

Addons for me fall into a few basic categories. You’re free to expand on this, remember these are addons for me.  (Also, for the uninitiated,  “addons” and “mods” are pretty much interchangeable terms.)

User Interface addons-

The stock User Interface (UI) is a fine setup if all you want to do is quest, run a few 5-mans, or dance naked on the steps of your favorite capital city.  But if you want to do anything more like raiding, and especially if you want to lead those raids, then you need to graduate to an addon that can help manage all the information coming in.  Take the player frames for example.  They are good to look at, but the information is somewhat lacking.  If you are in a raid and you need to track when someone is poisoned vs when they are cursed there is no way of doing that with the stock UI.  Sure it will list debuffs under a player’s character portrait, but there’s nothing to indicate at a glance the difference between “poison of the angry boss” or “curse of the pissed off adds”.  Additionally, there’s no way to move the player frames.  And when you are in a raid group, you have to manually drag each player from the raid window onto your screen.

UI addons can help you manage these issues (X-perl, PitBull, or Grid) and many more.  You can rearrange your action bars (Bartender or Titan Panel), your minimap (SexyMap), or your worldmap (Cartographer, Atlas).  There are also addons that can change the display/arrangement of bags, tooltips, and so on.

However, while UI mods can be amazingly useful and help you manage a myriad of things, they can also be the easiest addons to break (either by a patch or user error), and are among the most difficult to initially set up.

Class Addons

Each class has unique abilities, and sometimes the way that Blizzard thinks we should manage those abilities is just silly.  As an example, before the 3.2 change (aka “Back in my day…”) the only way to realistically manage totems as a shaman was through an addon.  Without an addon a shaman would have to have all of their twenty-some-odd totems on their action-bar and would either have to keybind all of them or click on them with their mouse.  This doesn’t even begin to address the nightmare of weapon buffs and shield tracking.  Fortunately there were addons available to help the shaman community manage these problems.

Class addons are as varied as the class abilities themselves and everyone will have their own preference on how they want their abilities supplemented.  At the moment I only use class mods for tanking and shaman…ing.   But there are plenty of addons out there for every class.

Some of the class addons I am familiar with are tank points, totem timers, tank buddy, and shields up.

Combat addons

When you engage an enemy a lot of things are happening.  You are taking damage; you are dealing damage; poisons, disease, and curses are being applied; if it’s a boss some crazy ability might be incoming, along with twenty of the bosses angry friends.  Abilities are proccing, stacking, or coming off cooldown.  You are gaining/loosing health, mana, rage, runic power, or energy.  And if you’re in a group then all this stuff is simultaneously happening to everyone else.  It can be daunting and overwhelming to try and sort through the whole mess.

Now, over the years, Blizzard has improved the stock way of tracking some of these things quite a bit.  However, a lot of things just aren’t tracked that well (or at all).  And most of the information from the stock UI just flies at you in an ubrupt and unorganized way.  It can be like trying to do long division while falling down the stairs.  And someone is throwing darts at you.  And you have to keep track of which darts are poison.

Again, it’s addons to the rescue!  There are so many combat addons out there!  And most of them do wonderful things.  You can track buffs and debuffs (SatrinaBuffFrame), incoming/outgoing damage/healing (MikScrollingBattleText), Boss abilities (DeadlyBossMods), total raid dps/hps etc (Recount), threat levels (Omen), and so many other things.

Combat addons can also be among the trickiest addons to configure because if you aren’t careful they have a tendency to stop on each other.  Even UI addons are ultimately easier, because once you get things configured on a UI mod it stays fairly stable.  But combat addons are always changing and interacting with each other in different ways, and so it can be tricky to get things just right.

Profession Addons:

Where would our wonderful little online world be without professions?  Well it sure as heck would be less fun I can tell you that.  Professions add a level to the game that can provide endless fun and even more endless frustration.  In my opinion the current way that professions are laid on is terrible.  I haven’t yet landed on an addon that I like though that does it better.  What I do know is that I don’t like it.  So we get to discover profession addons together.

There are two profession addons that I do use and love: Gatherer and Auctioneer.  Gatherer is great because it will track nodes.  Any node.  Ore, herbs, treasure chests, Blood of Heroes, barrels of milk, anything.  And then it will display it on your map.

And I know what you’re going to say, Auctioneer isn’t a profession addon!  Well sir, I’m sorry but I completely disagree with you.  Granted, Auctioneer doesn’t specifically interact with any profession (except Enchanting when you disenchant something), but Auctioneer tracks the WoW economy and professions fuel that economy.  There’s far too much to be said about Auctioneer to cover here so I will hold off on it for now.  Suffice it to say, if you want to make gold in the game, you can’t do it without Auctioneer.

Addons that just make the game better

And finally there are those miscellaneous addons that just made the game better just by their very existence.  I’m sure others of you would probably categorize these addons in other ways, but to me this is where they belong.  These addons…well just make the game better!

These addons include: Cartographer, Questhelper, Auctioneer (yes I’m listing it again), ItemLevel, AtlasLoot, and Auctioneer (yes. again.).

The long and the short of it is addons are great and make our lives wonderful.  However, and this is a big however, addons can also completely get in the way of actually playing and enjoying the game.  If you aren’t careful it can become an immense chore to keep track of, update, and configure each of the addons you have.  But, as long as you are aware that at any moment Blizzard may introduce an update that may completely break all of your addons, everything should be fine.

“[Insert clever sign off phrase here]”

~Fizz

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